Dining on campus will have a different look and feel for the fall semester, in an effort to reduce density and maintain physical distancing protocols.
However, that doesn’t mean the quality of the food or the dining experience will suffer, said Glenn Bucello, resident district manager for Chartwells at Buffalo State College.
“While it’s not going to be the same for anybody, we want to make it so it’s a great experience for everybody, where students can feel confident and safe,” he said. “We want to make sure they’re getting a great, quality dining experience.”
As the campus prepares to open for the fall semester, dining is just one of the many areas that will see changes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. From providing takeout options to delivering meals to students in quarantine, the goal is to deliver fresh, high-quality food to students, faculty, and staff in a safe manner. Bucello said they’re ready to do just that.
“We’ve really been working hard to make sure we’re doing our part to make the dining program something that parents and students don’t have to be concerned about,” he said. “The most important thing we can do right now is to make sure we’re protecting the safety of our associates, the students, the staff, and the faculty. It’s paramount. Once we do that, we can deliver on the food.”
All associates working in dining areas will be wearing masks, washing their hands frequently and wearing gloves, going through daily wellness checks, practicing social distancing, and sanitizing all high-contact surfaces regularly.
Changes to dining will include the ability to pre-order on a mobile app, a meal reservation system, and contactless payment systems. Signs in the dining areas will indicate one-way foot traffic, in order to keep people physically spaced out while they order or wait for food. Sanitizing stations have been installed in the retail dining areas as well as in Bengal Kitchen. Plexiglass shields have also been installed in those areas, Bucello said.
A reservation system has been implemented for the Bengal Kitchen dining hall, which will reduce the number of students in the dining hall at one time.
“Students will be able to go onto their dine-on-campus app and request a reservation,” Bucello said. “This will allow us to reduce density, as we moved our seating areas apart. And our seating capacity is down.”
Students who were unable or not interested in making a reservation for the dining hall will have the option of going through a takeout line, which will be outside of Bengal Kitchen.
“They can swipe, and we’ll have associates with the same meals outside of Bengal Kitchen that are inside Bengal Kitchen,” Bucello said. “Students will be able to have an associate fill up a container and go.”
Changes have also been implemented on the retail side of dining. For instance, students will now be able to order online through the Boost mobile app and pick up their food.
“It will help us reduce density on the retail side and make it more convenient for the students to order,” Bucello said.
In conjunction with the online ordering system, there will also be a pickup area outside of the retail food court, so students won’t have to enter the area, or stand in line, waiting for other students to order.
“We think that’s going to be a huge win for the students,” Bucello said.
Contactless card readers have also been installed, so students will only have to tap their cards in order to pay for meals, which avoids having to hand their cards over to a cashier.
Retail service Sushi-Do will be mobile-ordering only for the fall semester. Other changes include the former Chop’d and Salsarita’s locations transforming into Sushi-Do Hot Bar, which will feature a different menu every day.
“It’ll have a great speed of service and an elevated quality of food,” Bucello said. “This is something students have said they wanted in previous surveys.”
The opening of the “PlanetariYUM,” a new café in the Science and Math Complex, will offer grab-and-go options, Bucello said. The Starbucks in Butler Library will also be open, as well as the Barnes & Noble Bookstore’s B&N Café in the Campbell Student Union.
The 1,600 students who will be living on campus for the fall semester all have to quarantine for at least a week before the semester begins, which means Campus Dining Services will be delivering a lot of meals right off the bat.
“It’s a completely new world,” Bucello said. “We’re able to look at what we learned in the spring, extrapolate it out, and say, ‘OK, this is how we get food to the students that’s hot and fresh.’”
Despite the challenges, Bucello said, he’s eager for students to see the changes, and excited to roll out some of the new dining features.
“We think students will be pleased with what we’ve done,” he said.
Photo by Bruce Fox, campus photographer.